Film diaries: The importance of hapatics and tactility, part two

Continued from part one.

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Some gratuitous camera p***, and one of the nicest cameras I’ve handled – the choice of materials is superb. Too bad the price puts it out of reach for all but the lucky few.

This article falls into the film diaries because historically, there have been many attempts to make cheaper versions of popular cameras – the M2, for instance, is supposed to be a cut-price and simplified version of the M3; the Nikkomats are another example. Yet none of these feel particularly poorly made or roughly finished; if anything, they still considerably exceed the perceived quality level of anything currently available new. Objectively speaking, my 1995 Hasselblad 501C is a pain to use: it’s large, heavy, only carries 12 shots, has serious mirror slap, has a reversed finder, requires a separate external meter (or very good eye), is a pain to reload, slow to shoot with, and an ergonomic disaster – yet somehow I just love making images with it because of the way it feels in the hand. The lens’ aperture and shutter rings move with distinct, clean clicks. The mirror and shutter sound feels positive and deep. The accessories detach and snap into place with solid, positive clicks and zero free play; there are no rough-feeling mechanical parts or actions, and the focusing rings (mostly) have precisely the right amount of damping.

Of more relevance to the reader is that these cameras are available today, often in excellent condition – sometimes hardly used – for not very much money at all. Total cost for the Hasselblad (which is in near-new condition, by the way), with two lenses? Less than a D600 body. And it’s capable of equally good image quality, with the appropriate film loaded. I’m almost sure that the ‘blad will be working just fine – so long as you can still buy 120 film – in another 20 years; I’m just as sure the D600 won’t be. Move up the scale a bit, and you start to get into the more rarefied (at least on price) realm of Rolleiflexes, SWCs, Leica MPs and Nikon F2 Titans; these are at least as well built, and equally solid. The internals of these things are as finely adjusted (though not as well finished cosmetically) as a good mechanical watch. My F2T dates from 1979; it’s been well taken care of – but used – and still looks and functions as new. I’ve got a Rolleiflex on loan from a friend, too – that feels like you could hammer tent pegs with it, or perhaps use it as a chock for a tank on a particularly steep hill. And it would still continue working afterwards. Is it any wonder that whilst modern digital equipment has similar retained value to subprime bonds, film gear seems to have plateaued – or even risen slightly in recent times?

It’s not all bad news, however: it’s clear there’s still a difference between the tactile quality of say a D4 and a D3200. Yet, since we passed the point of sufficiency for most users already – older pro bodies now become a viable option. Used D3s are hovering around the US$2,500 mark; which is not much more than a new D600. (I know which I’d rather have.) Similarly, the premium compacts drop in value like stones; a Ricoh GR-Digital III is a great camera and available around the US$300 mark. Interestingly, Ricoh are one of the few companies that understand the importance of feel: even the buttons on the GR-Digital have a stiffer click and deeper travel than most normal compacts, which helps contribute to the impression of solidity and ‘positiveness’.

It seems that photographers fall roughly into two camps these days – those who care about feel, and those who don’t. Often, the latter simply don’t know any better because they’ve never had the opportunity to handle some really solid equipment, which is a shame, considering how much more accessible say a regular F2 is now than when it was first launched. Even more interesting is that a lot of the former vitriol-throwers change their minds after handling the Hasselblad Lunar in the flesh; it’s clear that the designer (re-designer?) understood the importance of tactility – even if we might disagree with some of the aesthetic choices, and the price point.

The bottom line is that it’s good to have options, even if you might not personally use those options. If there’s enough negative reaction to experimentation or premium products that focus on improved tactility instead of improved functionality – eventually we may well see these options disappear, or be severely restricted. Similarly, the obsession over spec sheets has to end; I’d definitely appreciate perfect button placement or sensible custom functions more than an extra boost of ISO to 512,000 or wherever the current ceiling is now. I can’t help but feel that more effort was spent on things like that in the film era (since the image quality playing field was fairly level) that now; though hopefully this will change in the near future. Camera manufacturers are going to have to start differentiating their product in new ways in order to continue to survive and grow as the markets reach saturation or become jaded; I know I’m definitely yawning a lot more over new camera releases these days. In the meantime, if you haven’t had the pleasure of handling a good film camera – you don’t know what you’re missing; hunt one down even if you don’t plan to shoot with it – some make worthwhile investments, or at worst, have reached price plateaus and are unlikely to devalue any further. At very least, they’re fantastic objects just to handle and display. In some ways, perhaps we don’t care about the result as much; it’s as much about enjoying the shooting experience as the images produced. Now, I’m going to see if I can find a 903 SWC…MT


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  1. As I read through both articles I kept remembering my reaction to my first camera. It took 127 film and the year was 1946. I was 4 years old and I got it by sending 4 boxtops in with my mother’s help. I can remember how disappointed I was by the feel of the camera. Of all the film cameras I’ve owned the Leica IIIg felt the best in my hand and had the most satisfying sound as the shutter released. The viewfinder was awful and the rangefinder a real challenge to see clearly. But the moment of releasing the shutter was tops. My Nikon F or course won hands down with through the lens viewing, but I shot a roll of film daily for a year with the Leica until I could previsualize or translate from what I could see in the viewfinder to what the shot would look on the film. I’ve always wanted a camera that could combine rangefinder handling with SLR viewing. I decided to buy an Olympus EPL1 when the price got down to about $250 and paid an additional $220 for the Olympus add on EVF. The EPL-1 is the closest I’ve come to the hybrid rangefinder with through the lens viewing. Every time I take a shot the sound of the shutter is enough like my old Leica to make me feel really satisfied. Evidently I dislike mirror slap more than I realized. The quality of the camera in my hand is good enough to make me feel I am working with a nice piece of equipment. I have tried various Nikkor manual focus lenses from the film era but my old eyes just can’t see critical focus any more. The plastic mount Olympus lenses (14-42 and 40-150)autofocus and don’t feel cheap once mounted on the camera. Likewise they are light to carry which is more important to me that the solid feel of say my 85mm Nikkor. I have a a Bronica 4.5 x 6 and it is different than the Hasselblad which always struck me as exquisite – but it has a really nice feel of it’s own too. I was recently given a Nikkormat EL and it has a distinctly harder, grittier feel than my F1. Perhaps it is the way the metal focal plane shutter seems to ring after the shot. I may get an OMD but for now I am very happy using the Olympus EPL-1 despite its limitations.

  2. Joseph Grunske says:

    Great pair of articles, Ming!
    I so love the feel and sound of my Pentax MZ-S with the battery pack attached. Same for my Nikon F100.
    My digital Nikon D300 never had anywhere near the same feel. The Pentax DSLRs, past and present, are far better feeling, but still not the same level as most film cameras.
    But that’s just me.

  3. The whole theme of haptics and how photographers depend on their tactile sense really become clear to me recently when I bought a Fuji X series camera. Although I was always wary that the IQ wasn’t going to be perfect and the RAW processing was going to be an issue, when I started shooting all that worry went away.

    The buttons and dials are all in the right places. The menus just make sense. Even the built in optical viewfinder, which may be superfluous these days, makes it extremely easy to focus on your artistic intent instead of thinking about technique. The “heft” of this relatively dense bit of alloy and glass seems to match your description of feeling good in the hand.

    The thing that most impressed me was that within 24 hours of unboxing the X-20, I was getting exactly the images that I wanted. It took me at least a half a year to get to that point with my OM-D, and I’m still tweeking my PP workflow for that camera. The Fuji jpegs are almost good to go OCC.

    Some examples here:

    Less stress capturing photos and less stress in post-processing is a great combination.


    • Great if you can find something that works for you out of the box – it’s a very individual thing. For me, the OM-D works nicely…

  4. I agree that the tactile aspects of design are vital. I have just bought a mint Nikon D50. For the second time. I loved using my first D50 with a variety of lenses but there was a special synergy with the 18-200 and 80-400. I subsequently upgraded to D200, D300, D300s, D3, D3s and am now looking at the D800 and D7100.

    The D50 was sold around 2 years ago as I just could not let go of it. It felt just right in my hand. Whenever I was not shooting wildlife I would grab the D50 first. But then I bought a X100 and the D50 was sold off. But I have missed it so much. The ergonomics and the way it feels in my hand just suits me. Takes great pics for such an old sensor as well. It reminds my of my Mont Blanc 145 ballpoint pen. The ink refills are not the best, Parker gels are far nicer, but the pen just feels right……

    So now I have bought another D50 in mint condition, hardly used. Welcome back old friend….

  5. Bought a used Nikon D700 rather than a new D600 based on feel, body, and control layout. I would love 24 megapixels but ergonomics was more important to me. That and the control layout more closely resembles my F 6. Hard for me to warm up to point and shoots. Taking photos at arm’s length without a viewfinder just seems wrong. Yes some have EVFs but I don’t want to stare at yet another computer screen – there’s plenty of time in post processing for that. :-). I want to literally see the light, preferably through a big bright full frame optical viewfinder. I guess I am hopelessly old school….

  6. Ming

    You definitely have the right idea. How a camera, or a firearm, feels and handles has a huge impact on the enjoyment of its use and the quality of the results.

    The next time someone asks why you are using that troublesome brick of a Hassleblad. Simply say you like the results. If they ask if a something smaller would be easier. Just smile and reply, “if it was easy, it would not be worth doing.” They probably won’t understand. But that is okay.

    Several years ago I was asked why I was using my 4×5 instead of a 35mm, a few different times. My standard reply at the time was, “this has 20x the film area of 35mm”. Of all the people that asked, only one understood the reply. Then there are the people that think a large format camera is surveying equipment.

    Have fun during your trip.

    • Actually, it’s easier to use a Hasselblad than figure out the menus on some of the modern cameras…

      At least if it’s surveying equipment, you won’t get stopped for taking pictures 🙂

  7. Great Article! I think that the tactility that leaves a lot to be desired is that manufacturers have been sticking to the same blue print of how the camera has been for years. There is that saying of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, but I would love to see a manufacturer step out of the box and develop a “new” camera system that breaks tradition. When digital technology came out, manufacturest shoved the sensor into an exisiting shell rather than building a new camera around the sensor. I understand that this was for backward compatibility, but I feel like it would have worked better if they took a different approach.

    At this point, I don’t think it matter is the equipment we have not will ever be created to the standard that they once were. Like you said, our digital cameras aren’t going to outlast our older film cameras. Manufacturers know that so they’re making equipment for “now” rather than the future. Leica’s trying to somewhat preserve the longevity of their cameras, but their digital cameras are aging just like everyone else’s.


    • Hear hear – there’s too much design by consortium (Japan) and adherence to ‘tradition’, (everybody else) – we seldom see any revolutions in form factor, sadly. It’s going to take a photographer with imagination, design skill and deep pockets to really make a change. As for digital – once anything with a chip in it dies, you replace it, not repair it. It’s impossible to repair in the same way as the mechanical cameras were. You can’t just fabricate another IC…

  8. Wolfgang says:

    Sometimes even the most diminutive aspects can make a notable difference. Just put on one of those milky plastic rear lens caps that Minolta used about ten years ago. They just run so smooth and sexy on the bayonet. Then compare a rear lens cap from Nikon. That feels like some plastic crap from the Soviet era.

    Though the f1.8 lenses from Nikon are optically satisfying, they just feel too plasticky. I just cannot get an attachment to them without the proper haptic properties and I am hesitating to get a 28mm. So I’ll probably shoot my D600 and D800 to death and will be out again.

    If only Leica made a system that came in at about half of the current price point.

    • I think they tried with the Summarits, but they don’t feel the same as the regular lens line either…their lens caps aren’t any better than the Nikons, either.

  9. Love the red fingernails.

  10. IYour post remebers me the G2, I dont use it anymore, but sometimes I take it just for feeling it in my hand.

  11. Bradley Cooper says:

    Does the F2 Titan feel different than a regular Nikon F2 aluminum body camera of the same shape, is it a matter of knowing that titanium being more difficult to dent makes the camera more durable, or is the desirability primarily due to its rarity? Is the surface finish or weight of the Titan different? I understand and enjoy the wonderful feel of beautifully made old film cameras but am confused about whether there is an actual tactile difference between the ordinary cameras and the rare and expensive titanium variants.

    • It’s a bit lighter and has a different surface finish – instead of gloss black paint or matte chrome, the surface is spatter-paint finished like the modern pro Nikons. The weight is noticeable because I thought my original F2 was too heavy; this one is just right.

  12. Ming, In many ways it is like a good relationship. You can add up all the positive and negatives of a person (like features in a camera, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about the chemistry (like haptics and tactility in a camera).

  13. Dear Ming, Thank you for sharing your thoughts about feel en tactility. For me these characteristics are very important, if not the most important. After 30 years, my favorite camera still seduces me. I use only ISO 100, and has no autofocus and no pixels, it is a black Minolta XD7. I strongly believe that a camera with the right look and feel, will make you an better photographer. Also manual focussing and just the use of primes gives me more fun in the process of photography. If the modern brands would take more effort in developing the best look and feel of their camera’s in stead of more megapixels they would bring us a lot more fun.

    • It will make you want to go out and shoot – and it’s that that makes you a better photographer, not the camera per se…

      Modern brands want to sell us another camera and make more money. Sadly, it seems they only care about photography because it helps them sell more cameras.

  14. Ming,
    Perhaps you can add a “haptics” Rating(s) to your reviews? (When you have time of course)
    If all the big name blogs and sites started rating equipment on “haptics” in addition to… then maybee the camera companies will
    take notice? (I also understand this is a very subjective rating system)

    • I don’t think it’s something you can assign a number to – but I do spend a good deal of time talking about how it feels and how it operates…

  15. I agree with your sentiments, but I have to add that I think placing importance on “tactility” is somewhat of a generational quality. In short, your showing you age Ming! The younger generations, which have grown up with plastic electronics and do not have a preconceived notion of “mechanical” quality do not have such bias.

    • Well, they should seeing as those old cameras never die!

      I’m not that old chronologically, just mentally…now where did I put my glasses again?

  16. Great article. You describe exactly how I feel about ‘feel’ 😉

  17. Great article! Exactly how I feel about ‘feel’ 😉

  18. What if this desired property of tactility is one part of a larger relationship we develop with our tools?

    I’ll use music as an example (again) because there exists the same facination with equipment. An expensive guitar will, generally speaking, feel better than a cheapo guitar, because the raw materials, precision, and execution are higher quality. However, this tactility is ultimately a vehicle to an emotional connection we seek with our equipment. This tactility allows the connection to happen more freely and naturally.

    Speaking for myself, I’ve kept a number of guitars because of the *experiences* I’ve had along the way. Same with cameras. I imagine other photographers can say the same. I’ll always be drawn to these pieces of equipemnt not by the responsiveness or feeling in my hands (as they often have major flaws or quirks), but by that bond of experience that strikes deep within to the emotional connection we’ve built together.

    Responsive, tactile, quality gear nutures this connection unobstructed by quirks and shortcomings, and allows one to focus solely on the part that matters most–the experience.

  19. Steve Jones says:

    Around 1976 when I was a young art student in the U.K. one of our professors suggested we should all buy a camera since it would be a useful tool.. I remember he showed us a Chinon SLR and said, “you don’t have to buy a Nikon, something like this will be good enough”. I cobbled together ( borrowed) enough money for a lowly Fujica ( now Fuji ) and my friend bought a Pentax. One of the international students taking the same course had decided to buy one camera, and one camera only, because he wanted the best. It was a Nikon F2. It was so expensive then ( especially for a student ) that he could only buy the body and couldn’t afford the lens until some months later. We laughed at him.
    I have no idea where he is now but it wouldn’t surprise me to know that all these years on he is still using that F2. He was the smart one, and oh.. what I wouldn’t give to go back in time to the 70’s and buy that same camera new. At that time even LED’s were advanced technology and we couldn’t even dream of things like auto focus and digital film. There were no megapixels but in cameras like the Nikon F series we certainly had quality.Thinking back, it seemed then, that the best photographers were really pushing the limits of the medium creatively and the technology was also pushing to keep up with them. Today the technology leads the way and we poor photographers struggle to keep up drowning in megapixels. It might be why those of us old enough to appreciate such things, cling to the familiar feel of those classic cameras like the M series, F series or the old OMs.

  20. Carlo Santin says:

    I play guitar as well. Feel is a lot, almost everything in a way. If an instrument doesn’t feel right in my hands I will not use it. I would prefer not to play at all than to play an instrument that is awkward or uncomfortable. When you find the right instrument, it is such a joy to pick it up and play it. It’s not much different for me with cameras, especially now that I’ve been shooting for a number of years and have some experience under my belt. I really need a camera that just feels right in my hands. Honestly, camera specs almost don’t matter to me now. I still use a 6mp Nikon D50 and get terrific results from that, and all sorts of film cameras. I prefer a simple camera (ISO, shutter speed, f stop, a couple of other buttons, that’s it) that just feels good in my hands. I’ve not yet tried any Ricoh cameras, perhaps I should.

    • I don’t think there’s really any fundamental difference between cameras and musical instruments – ultimately, they’re tools of the artist. The only problem is when marketing gets in the way…then we’d have pianos covering 14 octaves, guitars with 15 strings, and ultracompact piccolos that are the size of a pen.

  21. I would love a retro Nikon F or F2 ( I personally feel that the F is a purer design although the F2 feels better in the hand ). The winding lever could act as a modern type wheel. Keeping it simple would be paramount.

  22. Couldn’t agree more with these two articles.

    I love my D800 and M9, both of which I chose as much on form as function if I am really honest with myself, but when I have nothing to shoot, but want to go out and find a picture anyway, I’ll take my M6.

    Even if I didn’t know about your day job, I’d read these and think “I bet Ming owns at least one really nice watch”.

    • The D800 is technically excellent, but soulless: I certainly don’t take it out when I’m shooting my own personal work. And it’s not the size/ weight, because I’ll happily take the Hasselblad plus prism finder.

      I confess to owning more than one nice watch…

      • I agree. But many people have not had a chance to experience the value in a product, and thus do not know what the difference in”value” actually is. How many people have used a Leica lens for a week or worn a Patek Nautilus, that they are in a position to say – ok, now I get it. Not that one needs or must buy these esoteric items, but that they see the hidden value.

  23. I believe there’s only one reason why we’re not seeing many decently-built cameras today: they’re more expensive to build, and the buyer doesn’t mind enough to pay more. As another commenter pointed out above, it’s entirely up to us to just not buy the cheap trash (with great sensors) that’s floating around the entry and mid level segment. Manufacturer’s would get that message very fast. But it’s the opposite of what we’re actually doing. Nikon is throwing out one uninspiring camera body after another, and they sell like hot cakes because they’re relatively cheap and produce great pictures (technically, and if properly used).

    The only consolation is that the more sensors reach a saturation point in performance, the more cameras will necessarily be differentiated by their mechanical design. Although I’m quite afraid manufacturers would rather push prices further down instead of producing better designs for the same price…

    Oh, and by the way, the word “hapatic(s)” really does not exist. It’s “haptic(s)”, from the Greek “háptein”. “Hepatic”, on the other hand, is that which concerns the liver. I assume you didn’t want to write about that, Ming. (Or maybe you did, considering the liver’s job is to detoxify a polluted system…)

    • They’ll get the message but they won’t get the fact that it’s the feel of the thing that’s causing us to vote with our wallets. We’d get something with more ‘features’ instead. I’m sure there are enough people who’d pay that 10-20% more for tangibly better materials if they could know what the difference was. I think the key point here is that a lot of people have no idea because they’ve never used anything beyond their current devices.

      Well, we do have a polluted system…but why is it that my spell checker doesn’t think either haptics or hapatics is a word?

  24. Just to head back into the hapatics/haptics area, does the material used in the construction of cameras these days make them a less pleasant experience to use for extended shooting. Does the leather used on the Hermes Leica make for a better hapatic experience. If cameras were made using carbon fibre would that make them a better experience. Sometime I think my OMD is just a little too light and the D800E is fine. No one makes a car for me alone and I guess the same is true for cameras. To some extent they are all a compromise and we will end up choosing the one that provides us with the best in any specific circumstance. Unless we own our own camera shop and can choose as we please.

    • Yes and no – thin-gauge hard plastic is unpleasant; leather is nice but not suitable at all for tropical countries; and carbon fibre looks great, but doesn’t actually feel very nice because it’s nothing more than epoxy resin on the surface.

      We can get something made for just us alone, the question is, how much are you willing to pay?

  25. Sascha Sorbo says:

    Thanks a lot for another excellent article.
    I don’t feel prone to envy until I see a blue Patek Ellipse d’Or, a mokka Maserati Ghibli and a M9-P Edition Hermès.
    And I agree with you 100%. Does it always have to be state of the art? “High ISO!” was once the new “Megapixels!”, now “Resolution!” is the new “High ISO!”. I think Leica’s move to stick with the M9 by introducing the ME was as smart, as Sigma’s price philosophy with the SD1 was stupid. To stop those insane cycles is up to us. What could be improved up to ISO 1600? Why should I go into the bathroom, switch off lights and take pictures? Companies should now concentrate on ergonomics and create icons like they did in the analog days. In my opinion Leica did this with the M9, M9-P, ME. Competition is stopped here. The ME is isolated, while they sent the M240 out into the field. Prices remain stable. This is just so smart.
    What remains, is to make the vast majority of customers understand, what quality they can achieve with common print- and web sizes. And to let them understand that professionally scanned negatives of a Mamiya 7 still beat the crap out of any sensor/lens combination out there. Not to mention large format. Digital is not better, it’s just far more convenient.
    In many cases emotions are gone and they are delivered by haptics and aesthetics and solidity. Cycles are so short nowadays that maybe companies don’t have any time left for aesthetics and ergonomics, or worse, think it’s just not that important.
    This is a fatal development. Again, I am happy that there are companies like Ricoh and Leica.

    • I think it’s more of the latter – they care that the spec sells, but not necessarily the feel of the thing. Oddly, compacts are going the other way – more colors, materials etc; perhaps it’s because they’ve reached a bit of a wall when it comes to cramming in more features.

  26. Reblogged this on Communication Breakdown and commented:
    I’d like to share an article from the talented Ming Thein that has so much truth in it. Enjoy.

  27. Thanks for the interesting article as usual.

    As for cameras that fall to the hand elegantly, the Nikon f100 is my gold standard.

    My d3s is great, but when I wish for a smaller slr, the f100 is what I think of.

  28. Richard T says:

    Have you ever tried the Olympus E1? I was using 4/3rds a few years ago and people kept on raving about the ergonomics of the E1. Decided to give it a go – indeed it absolutely feels perfect in your hands. Too bad the sensor was decidedly sub-par.

    • Yes – I’d always wanted one because of the way it felt and the very silent shutter. A bit large size-wise, but perhaps back in the running if they’d priced it right and used the OM-D’s sensor.

  29. Kevin Dharmawan says:

    When are we getting “Digital Diaries?”

  30. Desire

  31. Another good read and I agree with what you wrote in this two part article. It is quite a key part, I mean how will you be inspired to shoot if your gear doesn’t feel right. However, I think some are lost with specs. They should be able to experience handling some of the tools you mentioned. They are good paper weights too if they are not going to use it :).

  32. Wonderful Article Ming! Really like the Leica Picture as well!

  33. Rain Santiago says:

    I think that in the digital age we’re all too caught up with the specs, megapixels and optical zooms that we’ve forgotten the essence of photography.

    • I do so agree. The problem now is that there is so much to compare and think about when purchasing a new camera, or computer or anything else, that we have forgotten that what we really want to do is take pictures. At one time there was a type of film to choose and a lens to choose and you went to take pictures.

    • I think you’re right however the “we” should not refer to the pure photographer but rather the enthusiast or pro-sumers (targets of the Overlord’s) as we are sometimes called. This is of course a deliberate ploy in that Nikanon, Sony and all the others spend billions on marketing just to make certain we yammer specs and argue technical attributes instead of taking pictures. Let’s face it; someone with a reasonable amount of photographic skill and a copy of PS/LR on their PC can make a very nice picture from a $200 camera. That said; I’m going shooting with my RX1 right now 🙂

    • Which is what I’ve been trying to say ever since I’ve bothered trying to say anything. Photography should be about images. Most people seem to think it’s about equipment.

      • If photography was only about images, the industry would have died long ago.
        Massaging the ego sells things and makes the materialistic world go round.

        Where in the world would we have these things to ogle at if not for the ego and its expression through “equipment”:
        Lamborghinis, short skirts, washboard abs, hi-fi, leicas, horological masterpieces (which seem to have buttered your daily bread)…

        … and you wouldn’t have had to waste time writing those wonderful articles about haptics…

        I say let equipment and image-making co-exist, along with a healthy dose of self-deception about one’s ability to make great images. Lest we end up with nothing to look forward to. 🙂

  34. To solve this problem,please invent Digital Film.Looks like regular film but have electronic circuits..and huge gigapixels,rewritables,instant picture and cheap.


  1. […] *Oh dear, I seem to have made an (admittedly somewhat circuitous) argument that your camera actually does matter…to be continued in part two! […]

  2. […] This article falls into the film diaries because historically, there have been many attempts to make cheaper versions of popular cameras – the M2, for instance, is supposed to be a cut-price and simplified version of the M3; the Nikkomats are another example. Yet none of these feel particularly poorly made or roughly finished; if anything, they still considerably exceed the perceived quality level of anything currently available new. Objectively speaking, my 1995 Hasselblad 501C is a pain to use: it’s large, heavy, only carries 12 shots, has serious mirror slap, has a reversed finder, requires a separate external meter (or very good eye), is a pain to reload, slow to shoot with, and an ergonomic disaster – yet somehow I just love making images with it because of the way it feels in the hand. The lens’ aperture and shutter rings move with distinct, clean clicks. The mirror and shutter sound feels positive and deep. The accessories detach and snap into place with solid, positive clicks and zero free play; there are no rough-feeling mechanical parts or actions, and the focusing rings (mostly) have precisely the right amount of damping.  […]

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